Local Search Optimization

Have you optimized your restaurant for local search?

While you might be actively involved in boosting your SEO (search engine optimization) generally, you’ll want to pay attention to local search optimization (LSO) as well.

If you want to increase your customer base and drive your sales, you’ve got to concentrate on LSO because it’s a proven tactic for increasing your business.

In this article, we look at restaurant local search optimization. We’ll tell you why it’s important and give you some tips for making it work for your restaurant.

Why Does Local Search Matter?

According to studies, Google 3-pack local results appear 93% of the time when searchers are looking for something locally. The Google 3-pack is the top three results on the search engine results page that aren’t paid ads.

For example, when searching for a restaurant, Google will automatically display results that are closest to where you’re doing your search.

It’s just the natural way Google does it.

So, if you’re looking for restaurants in Plano, that’s what you’ll get. In fact, Google narrows it down even further because it knows where you are. So, if you’re looking for restaurants, and you’re located in north Plano, you’ll get results for restaurants nearest your physical location.

So, if your restaurant website isn’t optimized for LSO, you’re in big trouble.

After all, it is detrimental for your restaurant to fall anywhere other than page one of the search results.

Facts on LSO

Before we dive into how to do LSO right, let’s look at some important facts.

Due to ongoing changes in Google’s search algorithm, you might have noticed that your business has dropped its position on the search results page. Perhaps you’ve noticed that a local directory like Yelp or TripAdvisor shows up higher.

This is one reason you not only want to concentrate on local search, but you want to claim your local listings.

You’ll also notice that search results pages appear a bit differently than they used to. You’ll see that the most relevant information is up top, and the advanced info is included right with the business listing such as photos, reviews and the website link.

With nearly 90% of local searches happening on mobile, and with searchers intent very clear (they either want to know your address, your phone number or look at your menu), you’ve got to pay attention to local search.

Now, that you have some facts on LSO, here’s how to optimize your restaurant for LSO.

#1: Claim Your Google+ Listing

Before you do anything else, visit Google and claim your Google+ listing. Visit Google My Business to begin.

By claiming this page, you ensure that when people are looking for a restaurant on Google, you’ll stand out, and they’ll find you.

Google My Business puts your business front and center. It also ties to your Google Maps page, so that both are intertwined.

Here’s how to claim your Google+ page:

  • Go to this page to add your business. You’ll find yourself on a maps page where you can see if Google has catalogued your restaurant already.
  • If you find a Google+ listing for your restaurant, you can click on “Manage This Page.”
  • You’ll then be asked to sign in with a Google account to manage the page.
  • If you don’t have a Google account and Gmail address, it’s easy and free to set one up. Go here.
  • Now that you’ve signed in, Google is going to ask you to verify that you indeed own the restaurant.
  • They’ll either use the phone number they have for your restaurant, or, if they don’t have that, they’ll send you a postcard to your physical address. When the card comes, go back to Google and enter the verification number.

Claiming your business page on Google is free and requires little of you other than a bit of your time.

Tip: If you have a YouTube page for your restaurant, you’ll want to use the same Google login to sign up for your Google+ business page. Additionally, if you have Google Analytics set up, you also want this page to use the same login.

Making sure that all three of these accounts are tied together using the same Google login will significantly simplify your life.

#2: Complete Your Google+ Listing

Now that you have your verified listing, it’s time to fill out your page. Do this completely. This is not something you want to put off for another day.

Why? Because what you put on your business page is what will show up in local search results.

Here is a list of things you should either add or check for accuracy on your Google+ business listing:

  • Restaurant name, address, phone number
  • Website
  • Hours – keep them updated all the time
  • Photos of the inside and the outside
  • Description
  • Logo and Banner image – test this and make sure it looks ok before you finalize it
  • Proper category

Your Google+ listing also lets you obtain and respond to reviews, which we’ll get to in a minute.

#3: Optimize Your Website

You’ve done a lot of work so far by claiming and setting up your Google listing. Now it’s time to fine tune your restaurant website for local search.

How do you rise to the top of Google local search results? You provide great, relevant, high quality content that readers want to look at and interact with.

Gone are the days of keyword stuffing. You want to write valuable, interesting content. Write for your customers and not the search engines, and you will succeed at optimizing your content.

Here are a few tips when it comes to optimizing your content:

  • Write unique titles for every page on your website. Stick to the recommended length.
  • Write unique descriptions for each page on your website, and again, stick to the recommended length. This is easy if you’re using a plugin like YoastSEO.
  • Craft unique URLs that match your keyword. For example, if the page title and keyword is stuffed grape leaves, use that in your URL: www.myrestaurant.com/stuffed-grape-leaves.
  • Do separate words in your URL with hyphens, and don’t use little words like a, to, the, your.
  • Use H2 (heading 2) tags on your page for organization.
  • Include internal links to other pages on your site.
  • Have your address and phone number on every page of your website.

#4: Do Keyword Research

You can use the Google Keyword Planner to find out how people are searching for restaurants in your area.

This will help you know how to optimize your website content by giving you keyword ideas you can target on your website. Don’t get carried away, though.

You aren’t looking to stuff your pages. You’re building your knowledge so you know what people are searching for and can find ways to incorporate it into your content.

Once you’ve found a keyword that works with the content on your page, consider using the YoastSEO plugin to make it work for you.

#5: Claim Local Business Listings

Earlier we mentioned that some of the top spots on search engine results pages are taken up with local directories. Because of this, you want to make sure you’ve claimed all your possible directory listings.

Google considers these citations, which is a mention of your business name. Google likes this and may reward you for it.

You’ll find that local search optimization begins with citation building. The more your restaurant has, the higher Google is going to place you in a local search.

To assist you with your local search strategy, create and/or claim your listings on these sites:

  • Bing Places
  • Zomato
  • OpenTable
  • Yellow Pages
  • Angie’s List
  • Yelp
  • TripAdvisor
  • Superpages
  • Citysearch
  • Yellow Pages
  • Yahoo Local
  • Merchant Circle
  • Dex Knows
  • Insider Pages
  • Localeze
  • Shop City
  • Judy’s Book
  • Yellow Bot
  • Kudzo
  • Foursquare

Digital directories like these help your restaurant because they give you visibility where your potential customers are searching, and they give you more citations on the Internet. This gives you credibility with the search engines, which ultimately improves your rankings.

When claiming your listings, be sure to completely fill out your profiles, just like you did with Google+. This includes vital information, links to your menus, photos and links to social media.

#6: Leverage Social Media

Social media can assist you with your local search optimization strategy.

If you aren’t on at least one social media platform, it’s time to get off the fence.

You can try Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest or SnapChat to get started.

When using social media, consistency is key. On most platforms, you want to post at least once a day, on others, like Twitter, more often.

Make sure you also completely fill out your social media profiles just like you did on your Google+ page. You also want to include a link back to your website in your description content.

On Facebook, make sure you’re listed as a local business.

Lastly, social media is about your customers and meeting their needs. Create interesting, educational, valuable, exciting content for your followers and use photos and video to your advantage.

#7: Harness Google Reviews

Reviews are a huge signal to Google that you are a worthy restaurant.

You don’t even need all positive comments, although the majority of them should be. Reviews tell Google that your customers value you, and Google values user-generated content.

Add buttons to your website so visitors can easily rate your restaurant and your services on Google+. Encourage reviews in your email marketing and on social media.

Make it super easy for your customers to leave you a review. Post instructions on your website right along with your links.

You can also ask your customers for reviews on Facebook, Yelp and other review sites.

When people do review your restaurant, respond to every review, positive or negative. When it comes to responding to the negative ones, do so with kindness and empathy, remembering that your customer is king.

Reviews will help your restaurant perform better in local searches.

#8: Keep Contact Info and Hours Up-to-Date

This sounds easy, right?

For many business restaurant owners and managers, keeping information current is a difficult task. If you don’t have time for it, assign it to someone else.

In addition to keeping your contact info and hours up-to-date, you want to make sure that your website, social media platforms, directories and email all have the same contact information.

Google (as well as Bing) doesn’t favor inconsistencies, and you don’t want to negatively affect your local search results.

#9: Work on Local Link Building

Link building is good for your restaurant. We aren’t talking about the paid link building of years’ past, though. This needs to be accurate, not purchased, and well-planned.

Local link building can have a huge influence on your search engine rankings, especially locally.

Search engines give credibility to sites that have more links coming in than those that don’t. So, the more links you have coming in to your website, the better. Just make sure they are trustworthy sites.

This is going to take a bit of work on your part and is a time-consuming task. Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Look for influencers in your community such as food writers. For example, if you’re an Italian restaurant, invite the writer to visit and when they write an article about your food, ask if they’ll include a link back to your website in their copy.
  • Sponsor a local event or charity, and ask them to link back to your site from their own website.
  • Ask local bloggers or media personalities to do reviews and link back.
  • Create coupons for deals sites.

#10: Use Google Analytics

You can’t know what’s working if you don’t measure it.

You set up a Google+ page, and now you can set up a Google Analytics page using the same login.

Use your analytics to monitor the results of your local search optimization.

To do this, you have to add the code on your website. You can do this, or ask your web developer to do it for you.

Now you can see how many visitors are coming to your restaurant website and from where. If the organic rates are higher, then your local search optimization is working.

Do be patient, though, as LSO takes time to work.

Final Thoughts

When your customers search for a restaurant, they’re most often doing it locally, and they’re usually looking for a place to eat that very same day or evening. If they can’t find you, they can’t see your great menu.

If you put some time and effort into your local LSO, you’ll gain a competitive edge over other restaurants in your area.

LSO will put you at the top of the search pages and give your restaurant increased visibility.

A final tip: these local search optimization tools aren’t a pick and choose option. To be successful at SEO, your strategy must include all of these tactics and especially website optimization, Google + business pages, directory listings and social media.

Combine these strategies and put them to work for you, and you’ll soon find you’re the top restaurant on the local search engine results pages.